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B'More Green
An environmental blog for everyday living
Nutrient pollution trading in limbo in Maryland as it expands in Virginia

While the Obama administration is touting Virginia's pollution trading program as an "innovative market-based approach" to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland's trading effort remains stuck in limbo after years of study and debate.

Federal officials last week called Virginia's program a model for other states struggling with the high costs of cleaning up polluted waterways. Under it, the state is working to reduce phosphorus pollution fouling the bay by having private investors pay farmers to reduce soil erosion and runoff of fertilizer from their fields.

Those reductions, gained through planting streamside trees and other voluntary conservation measures, are "banked," then sold to public or private developers who need to compensate for their construction impacts on waterways.

Buying banked pollution "credits" from farmers and other landowners has cost about half what the state would have had to spend on building stormwater retention ponds and underground filters at construction...

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Little change seen in MD from coal ash disposal rules

Disposal of contaminant-laced ash from coal-burning power plants appears unlikely to change much in Maryland under long-awaited new federal regulations announced Friday, a state environmental regulator said.

Horacio Tablada, land management director for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said that coal-ash rules unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency after years of study largely track restrictions the state adopted in 2008. 

The EPA laid out safeguards intended to protect communities from coal-ash impoundment failures, like the catastrophic spill in Kingston, Tenn. six years ago.  The agency also set requirements meant to prevent ground-water contamination and air emissions from coal-ash disposal, either in landfills or impoundments.

The federal rules, which take effect in July, drew praise from industry groups, which had argued that coal ash can be safely disposed of in the same kinds of landfills that now take municipal garbage.  Environmentalists, however, had...

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St. Michaels man gets probation, must pay restitution in rockfish poaching scheme

A St. Michaels fisherman received probation Friday for helping illegally harvest tens of thousands of pounds of striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay, but must pay $40,000 in fines and restitution for what the sentencing judge called an "egregious" offense.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett told Lawrence Daniel Murphy he seriously considered jailing him, but went along with the prosecution's recommendation for probation because of Murphy's relatively minor role in a fish poaching conspiracy involving three other Eastern Shore watermen.

However, Bennett said he wanted to hit Murphy in the wallet to send a message to other watermen that illegal fishing is a "very, very serious matter." Striped bass, also known as rockfish, are Maryland's state fish.

Murphy, 37, worked as a helper aboard the Kristin Marie from 2007 to 2012 with Tilghman Island watermen Michael D.  Hayden Jr. and William J. Lednum. They were caught in February 2011 trying to retrieve more than 20,000 pounds of...

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O'Malley aide Abigail Hopper tapped to run federal offshore energy bureau

The chief of Maryland's Energy Administration, Abigail Ross Hopper, landed a new job Thursday, running the federal agency that oversees development of offshore oil and gas and wind energy.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Hopper's selection as director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, effective Jan. 5.  She will become the bureau's second official chief, taking over from acting director Walter Cruickshank.

Hopper has led Maryland's energy administration since 2012 while also serving as energy advisor to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a position she's held since 2010.

She helped guide the O'Malley administration's controversial offshore wind subsidy through the General Assembly in 2013.  As the state energy agency chief, she also oversaw the administration's efforts to boost renewable energy production, reduce energy consumption and reduce climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.

Hopper joins the Obama administration at a time it is considering opening portions...

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H&S Bakery launches natural gas delivery fleet, mayor says city trash trucks are next

Executives with Baltimore-based H&S Bakery announced Wednesday their purchase of a new fleet of cleaner-running, propane-fueled delivery trucks that they said would cut their emissions in half in Baltimore.

They made the announcement in a new state-of-the-art, environmentally-friendly bread distribution facility in an industrial area across the Baltimore County line from Rosedale. They and several city leaders, including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, touted the fleet change — which is still in the works — as part of a broader shift toward alternative fuel transportation coming to the city.

"H&S Bakery takes the responsibility seriously to protect our environment," said J.R. Paterakis, the family-owned company's vice president of sales and marketing. "Our goal is to be a trendsetter."

Rawlings-Blake said the city is working with many local companies to think "more innovatively about reducing our carbon footprint," and the Paterakis family's jump to propane-gas vehicles was a perfect...

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Fracking ban in NY prompts calls for MD to follow suit

With New York's governor banning hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in that state, environmental groups are calling on Maryland's lawmakers to follow suit.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ended six years of study in that state and sided with his top advisers in deciding the potential environmental and health risks of "fracking," as it's commonly known, were too great to allow it to go forward there.

The announcement prompted environmental groups to renew their opposition to letting fracking proceed in western Maryland, which sits atop a small slice of the gas-rich Marcellus shale formation stretching from the Carolinas to New York.

"The state of Maryland, which has been debating for years whether to allow fracking in its western counties, should follow New York’s lead and adopt a legislative moratorium preventing the practice here," Mike Tidwell, director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network said.

Gov. Martin O'Malley recently concluded after a 3 1/2-year study that fracking could be done...

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